Profanation of the Basilica of Saint-Denis and Many Other Churches

March 26, 2019
Basilica of St. Denis

The Basilica of Saint-Denis was profaned in the night of March 2 – 3, 2019. The famous burial place of the kings of France, located in northern Paris, was visited and vandalized after one or several persons broke in. According to Le Parisien, stained glass windows were smashed and the organ case was severely damaged, as was the blower motor.

According to the heritage official responsible for the basilica, Saadia Tamelikecht, the vandal must have found himself “stuck inside the enormous organ” and “damaged the motor and broken the doors on the casing” to escape. Traces of blood were also found among the shards of stained-glass. In addition to the damage to the instrument and the stained-glass windows by which the intruder(s) entered, two other stained-glass windows were smashed and two locks forced.

The broken stained-glass windows dated from the 19th century. They were among the pieces reworked by the architects who restored the basilica after the destruction of the French Revolution, François Debret (1777 – 1850) and Eugène Emmanuel Viollet le Duc (1814 – 1879). The investigation is in the hands of the commissariat of Saint-Denis.

In February 2019, five other churches were vandalized in France over a few days, beginning on February 4:

  • A statue of Our Lady was found in pieces on the floor of the church of Saint-Nicolas d’Houilles in Yvelines. This was the third time in ten days that the pastor reported vandalism to the police. At the end of January, the altar Cross had been thrown on the ground and the celebrant’s chair damaged. The vandals were not identified.
  • On February 5, an altar cloth and the Nativity scene caught fire in the cathedral of Saint-Alain de Lavaur in Tarn. The arsonists also twisted the arm of the Corpus on a crucifix. Two adolescents were arrested. “God will forgive, not me.” was mayor Bernard Carayon’s reaction in the local press. The town hall had just contributed to an expensive restoration project for the cathedral.
  • On February 6, a parishioner discovered a Cross painted on the wall with excrement in the church of Notre-Dame-des-Enfants, Nîmes, in Gard. Hosts had been made to adhere to it. The tabernacle had been broken into and the remaining hosts had disappeared. Excrements littered the floor and “several statues” had been soiled.
  • On February 9, a malefactor broke a sacred vessel and spread hosts across the altar of the church of Notre-Dame in Dijon. The sacristan called the police. A Mass of reparation was celebrated that same afternoon by Bishop Roland Minnerath.
  • Finally, the tabernacle of the church of Saint-Nicolas was found knocked over on February 10 in Maisons-Laffitte, Yvelines. A 35-year-old homeless man was arrested and admitted to the crime, before being committed to a mental hospital.

On February 12, the French minister for the interior published a report for 2018 on racism and anti-Semitism levels in France, which are considered alarming. Few commentators pointed out that anti-Christian incidents remain by far the most numerous. Incidents “of a racist and xenophobic nature” have dropped by 4.2% to 496 events in 2018. Anti-Moslem incidents reached their lowest level since 2010 with approximately 100 occurrences. Anti-Christian acts, on the other hand, have climbed to 1,063 recorded incidents from 1,038 in 2017. In the realm of discrimination, are we dealing with selective indignation?